Quian Segubre and Kate Yvonne Bareto

“Here’s your order, Sir.”

Dashing through the tables in a jam-packed fast food chain, service crews become heavily busy during these times of holidays, may it be inside or outside the workplace.

It is truly intrusive to see the stark reality of every hardworking employee struggling to make ends meet due to insufficient salaries that fail to keep up due to inflation. Sadly, this low wage issue has been ubiquitous in every job sector for over the years and it was and still is a struggle, especially during economic recession.

As the Holiday season is slowly approaching, it is essential to acknowledge the plight of Filipino employees who are often overworked and underpaid with jobs that do not require higher education or specialized skills. This reality often results in them being relegated to the lower class, where they are stigmatized and disrespected. 

Unwanted Dilemma

Ruzz Dequilla, a part-timer at the age of 25, found himself a place where he could support his financial and basic needs in one of the biggest fast-food chains in the Philippines. For him, this December has been a great challenge for him as a crew assigned to the dining station, because of the multitude of orders and customers that sometimes they can't handle.

“The pressure seems normal to me because we don't have a choice. We need to ensure that customers are satisfied with the best quality and service that we could offer as possible,” Dequilla said.

Initially, Ruzz’s course was Bachelor of Science in Marine Engineering but due to financial instability and to help his family with their everyday spending, he used his initiative to look for a part-time job. As a crew member, he has embraced his role with a sense of purpose and dedication that is truly inspiring.

However, he reiterated that it is relatively easy for others especially for new hires whenever they cater Christmas parties and the like, since most of them are not forced to entertain but rather, assigned crews usually facilitate these kinds of events.

"As you know, the number one problem with fast food jobs in the Philippines is the salary. However, I did consider it necessary to use the income for daily expenses and to prepare myself for the next step in my career,” Ruzz added.

Ever since the biggest problem for Filipinos for years has been their low salary, and their compliance has gone unheard. For decades, an ineffable level of poverty and exploitation was subjected to hardworking Filipinos of our nation. Low wages that can cause poverty is one of the most pressing issues that keeps plaguing our country, and the government has failed to address it. The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported in July 2022 that the unemployment rate in May had increased to 6%, which was slightly higher than the rate recorded in the previous month. This figure translates to 2.93 million jobless Filipinos, which is around 165,000 more than the number in the previous month.

“It is disheartening that we have only a fixed salary, 450 for eight hours of a workday. Without any bonuses. Additionally, commodity prices are constantly increasing, but our salary remains low,” Dequilla expressed.

Despite the difficulties he faced, he believed that through this job, he was able to grow as a person, leading him to elevate his confidence. Back then he was shy, but now he knows how to communicate with customers. He also appreciates the working environment that the company provides for working students.

Ruzz also emphasizes the importance of leaving personal problems outside of work, as bringing them in can cause trouble for both the employee and the customer. He says that having a strong work ethic and prioritizing the job above personal issues helps to make the work environment more manageable.

Glistening Night Shift

The same goes with Dawn, 18, a four-month-old service crew from a different yet also famous fast food chain, who finds it equally tiring how they still get the same rate of salary even after attending to large food orders.

On the bright side, she finds her job helpful in a way that they acquire experiences to hone the skills that they'll need in the future. They get to gain their confidence through constant conversations because of handling customer concerns, which she perceived as “fulfilling” for her as a part of their job.

According to the Philippine News Agency, aside from the 12 national legal holidays, the Office of the President occasionally issues executive memoranda for special non-working holidays nationwide to allow personnel and employees of government or private companies to enjoy such holidays. However, some private employers do not provide extra pay on such a day of rest, only the 13th-month  pay on year-end holidays, which ultimately affects their earnings on days that they should be enjoying out of work.

While families celebrate their Noche Buena at night, most service crews like Ruzz and Dawn are left behind working double duties due to the high demand for fast food. Amidst the houses blinding with Christmas lights and decors, some people also shed light just to give us a meal to serve on our tables.

During this festive season, service crews are like a radiant mirrorball, illuminating our holidays by ensuring we savor delightful meals with them barely serving something for their own. And as every household’s Christmas tree is lit with merry, a busy service crew keeps every family warm and happy.